Editor’s Note: Kelly Wallace is CNN’s digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. She’s a mom of two girls and lives in Manhattan. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.
Some media sites are counting down until reality star Kendall Jenner turns 18
Women across country say the Jenner countdown is inappropriate and gross
Some say it's fair game for a family always seeking the national spotlight
There were similar countdowns for the Olsen twins and Justin Bieber
There are stories you just wish weren’t true, and for me, a mom of two young girls, this is one of them: media outlets counting the days until Kendall Jenner, one of the youngest members of the Kardashian clan, turns 18.
The celebrity site TMZ posted a photo last week – a very revealing one, at that – of Jenner in short shorts and a bikini, with this headline: “Kendall Jenner 53 Days.”
Hmmm – 53 days until what? A new TV gig? A new modeling contract? Until she announces college plans?
Oh no, my friends. Below the headline and the supremely sexy photo was this: “Until she turns 18. Not that we’re counting.”
It wasn’t just TMZ. Another celeb site, HollywoodLife, tweeted the same photo and added this: “To all those wondering, Kendall Jenner turns 18 in 52 days.”
I wasn’t wondering – were you? And here’s the thing: Something just doesn’t feel quite right about the whole concept of a countdown for a young woman about to turn the age when she’s legally viewed as an adult – even a young woman like Jenner, who has spent much of her life on reality TV.
No matter how much Jenner and her attention-seeking family pursue the national spotlight, and no matter how much Kardashian critics might question my spending time on this at all – this story, let me be clear, is not about Kendall Jenner. It is about a child.
Kylie and Kendall: Growing up Kardashian
After all, while no one is specifically indicating to what everyone is counting down, one can assume it’s not that Jenner will soon be able to vote for the first time.
“Maybe they are counting down the days until she is legally responsible for her decisions,” said Dorothy Liu, a mom of a 10-year-old girl, on my personal Facebook page.
If only that were the case!
Too hot for tweens: Why some parents dread back-to-school shopping
“There is a countdown clock waiting for a girl to turn 18 so they can (ogle) her more inappropriately then they already do,” Jodi Ferich said on CNN’s Facebook page. “I think its a valid question about the appropriateness of waiting for a young lady to age so you can objectify her as a sex object.”
“I believe it’s not fair game to count down to her being 18,” said a reader via e-mail in response to a request for comments on CNN’s Facebook page, adding that it can be looked at as “perverted, disgusting and just plain wrong.”
“Anyone who is watching this countdown waiting for this child to turn 18 needs a mental evaluation. 18 is still a CHILD in every way,” said Krista Dawn Savoury, also on CNN’s Facebook page.
“Is nothing off limits?” said Sharon Rowley, a blogger and mom of six. “Yes, I know her family has ‘sold out.’ ”
Opinion: For strong daughters, stop with the sex stereotypes
It is that last point – how her family has embraced the media in every way possible – that led many others to believe counting down until Jenner turns 18 seems entirely appropriate.
“Jenner is part of the Kardashian clan and they live for the camera,” said Joni Hudson-Reynolds, a blogger, via e-mail. “They court the spotlight and when you make the choice to live this way, you live with the consequences, and know the consequences will be taped.”
Jodi Jill, a celebrity columnist in Los Angeles, questions “why all the eyebrow raising.”
“This would be different if the ladies didn’t want this kind of attention, but they do,” Jill said. “That’s not to say this doesn’t go too far, but if it was inappropriate like everyone is screaming about, the Jenner clan would have already stopped it. One call from a concerned mom (better known as Kris Jenner) would have pulled it down.”
Sadly, this is not the first time there’s been a public countdown until a celeb turns the legal age. Years before Mary-Kate and Ashley Oslen turned 18, a number of Internet sites popped up, counting down the years, months and days until the big day.
And it’s not just a sexualization-of-girls thing. There was also a countdown until Justin Bieber reached the big one-eight, although one might argue this ogling until teens are “jailbait no more” seems to happen more for young women than young men.
We know our kids grown up faster than ever, and we see that evidence just about everywhere we look, from the clothing options for our tweens and teens to the way their role models (or former role models) present themselves (think Miley Cyrus!) to the concerns about the photos they’re sending each other online.
Adult-inspired lingerie marketed for young girls
That said, can’t we expect or demand that, as Sharon Rowley said, certain things should be completely off limits?
Beth Engelman, a mom of one and co-host of the blog Mommy on a Shoestring, said, “I don’t care for that family but … still shame on TMZ for perpetuating the sexualization of this child.”
Like Engelman, I don’t quite get why there is such a fascination with this family. So why is this story news?
Because it seems, at least to me, completely outrageous to count down until a young woman turns 18, almost implying that once her 18th birthday approaches, she is fair game for sexual exploitation and objectification.
As one reader said, “To be glorifying it is just wrong and teaches the wrong idea to people who don’t have common sense.”
Or respect for women.
Follow Kelly Wallace on Twitter and like CNN Living on Facebook.